I don't really believe that a clean house is a wasted life. Actually, I very much enjoy coming home to a clean house, and it absolutely affects my mood if there is too much dirt or clutter around. I can relax more in a clean house. That said, I also prioritize some cleaning tasks further down on my perpetual to-do list, so if you come over to my house and see dust on the TV or a cobweb in the corner, don't take it personally. I just decided that playing with my son or spending quality time with my husband or reading a book or any number of things were more important than taking care of those things.
I am a little different than my husband. He is fine with clutter but likes things clean. Things like under the toaster oven and behind the refrigerator - when he cleans, he cleans. When I clean, I tidy. I usually don't have time (or don't choose to spend the time) to truly clean. He has suggested that perhaps we should get a cleaning service to come once or twice a month to do the heavy cleaning - bathrooms, etc. Perhaps it shouldn't, but this bothers me. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's that I feel like I should be able to do it all myself, and it's a little bit about not wanting to spend money on it, but I think it's primarily that I want to be able to do it myself. I don't want somebody else in my house, cleaning my toilets and dusting my shelves.
So I'm going to keep doing my best to keep the house as clean as possible. Here are a few time-saving tips I've run across to help manage this within a busy schedule:
1. Declutter! Simplify! The less stuff you have, the less to put away, the less to keep clean. A never-ending process. Go through your house with a trash bag every now and then and see how quickly it fills up!
2. Go through your mail the second you bring it inside. 95% goes right in the recycling bin - the bills go on the desk or file cabinet.
3. When you swap out towels in your bathroom, use one to quickly wipe down the countertop, the toilet, or the dust that collects on the edge of the bathtub.
4. Have a schedule for laundry. This will depend on your family's needs and schedule. For us, it means three loads of laundry on Fridays and one on Sunday. Doing it at consistent times helps me keep up.
5. Keep cleaning supplies handy. I don't do this now, but I'm going to add a toilet brush to every bathroom. Having only one means that it's far away from a couple bathrooms. Keeping the cleaners handy is a little tougher with a toddler, but I'm going to figure that out, too. If the supplies are there, they'll get used more.
6. Have Mom visit more often.
7. Clean as you cook. When I can, I am cleaning or organizing the kitchen as things cook.
8. When you go upstairs, take something with you.
9. I try to take 10 minutes at the end of the day to straighten up - put toys in bins, fold throw blankets, in general put things back where they belong. If it can't be clean, hopefully it can be tidy.
Here's a post on Unclutterer that discusses this, including many comments that say that hiring a cleaner is worth it. Maybe one day, but for now I'm going to do the best I can myself.